Introduction: Osteoarthritis


Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis typically caused by age-related wear-and-tear. In diagnosis, it must be distinguished from other types of arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis (second-most common type, affecting younger adults and juveniles), and various types of secondary arthritis that are caused by an underlying condition: reactive arthritis caused by an infection, psoriatic arthritis from psoriasis, gonococcal arthritis from gonorrhea, and others. Other possible conditions with arthritis-like symptoms include ankylosing spondylitis (affecting the spine) and gout.

Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. This is the form that usually comes with age and most often affects the fingers, knees, and hips. Sometimes osteoarthritis follows an injury to a joint. For example, a young person might hurt his knee badly playing soccer. Then, years after the knee has apparently healed, he might get arthritis in his knee joint.

A sports injury to a knee when a person is young can lead to athritis years later.

Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the body's own defense system doesn't work properly. It affects joints, bones, and organs--often the hands and feet. You may feel sick or tired, and you may have a fever.

Other conditions can also cause arthritis. Some include:

  • Gout, in which crystals build up in the joints. It usually affects the big toe.

  • Lupus (LOOP-us), in which the body's defense system can harm the joints, the heart, the skin, the kidneys, and other organs.

  • Viral hepatitis (VY-rul HEP-ah-TY-tis), in which an infection of the liver can cause arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis can make it hard to hold a pencil or a brush.

Do I Have Arthritis?  


Pain is the way your body tells you that something is wrong. Most kinds of arthritis cause pain in your joints. You might have trouble moving around. Some kinds of arthritis can affect different parts of your body. So, along with the arthritis, you may:

  • Have a fever.

  • Lose weight.

  • Have trouble breathing.

  • Get a rash or itch.

These symptoms may also be signs of other illnesses.

Having stiffness or pain when you move could be a sign of arthritis.

What Can I Do?  


Go see a doctor. Many people use herbs or medicines that you can buy without a prescription for pain. You should tell your doctor if you do. Only a doctor can tell if you have arthritis or a related condition and what to do about it. It's important not to wait.

You'll need to tell the doctor how you feel and where you hurt. The doctor will examine you and may take x rays (pictures) of your bones or joints. The x rays don't hurt and aren't dangerous. You may also have to give a little blood for tests that will help the doctor decide if you have arthritis and what kind you have.

The x rays will tell the doctor what is happening to the bones and joints inside your body.

How Will the Doctor Help?  


After the doctor knows what kind of arthritis you have, he or she will talk with you about the best way to treat it. The doctor may give you a prescription for medicine that will help with the pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Health insurance or public assistance may help you pay for the medicine, doctor visits, tests, and x rays.

To get your medicine, take your prescription to your local drugstore or send it to your mail-order provider.

How Should I Use Arthritis Medicine?  


Before you leave the doctor's office, make sure you ask about the best way to take the medicine the doctor prescribes. For example, you may need to take some medicines with milk, or you may need to eat something just before or after taking them, to make sure they don't upset your stomach.

You should also ask how often to take the medicine or to put cream on the spots that bother you. Creams might make your skin and joints feel better. Sometimes, though, they can make your skin burn or break out in a rash. If this happens, call the doctor.

You may need to drink milk or eat when you take your medicine.

What If I Still Hurt?  


Sometimes you might still have pain after using your medicine. Here are some things to try:

  • Take a warm shower.

  • Do some gentle stretching exercises.

  • Use an ice pack on the sore area.

  • Rest the sore joint.

If you still hurt after using your medicine correctly and doing one or more of these things, call your doctor. Another kind of medicine might work better for you. Some people can also benefit from surgery, such as joint replacement. 1

Researching symptoms of Osteoarthritis: Further information about the symptoms of Osteoarthritis is available including a list of symptoms of Osteoarthritis, other diseases that might have similar symptoms in differential diagnosis of Osteoarthritis, or alternatively return to research other symptoms in the symptom center.

Misdiagnosis and Osteoarthritis: Research more detailed information about misdiagnosis of Osteoarthritis, underlying causes of Osteoarthritis (possibly misdiagnosed), or research misdiagnosis of other diseases

Treatments for Osteoarthritis: Various information is available about treatments available for Osteoarthritis, prevention of Osteoarthritis, current research about Osteoarthritis treatments, or research treatments for other diseases.

Causes of Osteoarthritis: Research more detailed information about the causes of Osteoarthritis, other possibly hidden causes of Osteoarthritis, or other general information about Osteoarthritis.

Statistics and Osteoarthritis: Various sources and calculations are available in statistics about Osteoarthritis, prevalence and incidence statistics for Osteoarthritis, and you can also research other medical statistics in our statistics center.

         Contents for Osteoarthritis:

1. excerpt from Do I have Arthritis: NIAMS

Last revision: June 4, 2003

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